By Ashley Hocking
Recent University of Kansas graduate Jacey Bishop was studying abroad in Europe and visiting Rome for the weekend when she accidentally got in a car for a ride to the airport that turned out not to be an Uber. She quickly realized her driver didn’t speak any English, and she had no idea where he was taking her.
I got into the backseat of a black SUV that looked like all of the other taxis in Rome. I was in a crowded town square with two of my friends, as taxis and Ubers that all looked the same lined up to pick up their passengers. It was rush hour, and the cars behind us were honking.
I told the driver our destination was the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, in case he hadn’t looked at what we had entered on the Uber app. He turned around and looked at us with a confused expression. He rapidly started speaking in Italian, and I did not understand a word he said. I kept saying the word “airport.” Eventually, he put his foot on the gas pedal.
About five minutes into the hour-long car ride, my friend Rachel got a phone call. The man on the phone said he was the Uber driver that she had ordered and that he couldn’t find us at the town square. I felt my heart drop because I realized we had gotten into a car that wasn’t even an Uber.
A flashback of the movie “Taken” rolled through my head. I began to assume my friends and I were about to get scammed out of a lot of money, kidnapped or worse.
I took my phone out of my pocket and began to track our location. I realized we were heading in the right direction, which slightly reassured me.
The driver kept speaking to us in Italian and sending questioning looks over his shoulder. I glued my eyes to our moving location on the screen of my iPhone, while my friends tried to communicate with our driver using hand gestures.
After the longest hour of my life, we pulled up to the drop off lane of the airport.
My friends and I pulled together all the euros we had in our wallets. I gathered up the bills, which amounted to 90 euros, and handed them to our driver. He seemed grateful that we paid him for his time and gas. We grabbed our bags and made a beeline for the doors of the airport.
As soon as I passed the threshold of the building, I let out a sigh of relief. I knew that we overpaid our driver, but I wanted to do anything I could to ensure that my friends and I got out of that car quickly. I thought it was remarkable we were able to get to the airport with a man who did not speak an English and definitely was not an Uber driver.
I made a silent vow to myself to never get in another Uber again without checking the license plate number first.
-As told by Jacey Bishop